• pandiculation •
Pronunciation: pæn-di-kyê-lay-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: No, this word doesn't mean "acting like a panda"; it has nothing to do with pandas except right after they wake up. This Good Word refers to the full body stretch, stretching the entire body, including the jaws (something pandas probably do, too, when they are sleepy).
Notes: This roundly needed word is about to leave us. It has already vanished from the Merriam-Webster and American Heritage dictionaries, even though we have no substitute that distinguishes the full body stretch from partial ones. Pandiculation is the noun from pandiculate, which means that someone who pandiculates must be a pandiculator.
In Play: Here is a good word to put into play in a rich variety of situations. At home you might try: "Honey, the rampant pandiculation in your audience suggests we may have seen enough of your slides." Can't you just hear this word hard at work at work? "Most of the activity on my shift is pandiculation."
Word History: English snapped this funny word up from French, which inherited it from Latin pandiculari "to stretch oneself", an extension of pandere "to spread, unfold". The past participle of pandere is passus, a root we see in passage, something that can also stretch quite a way. Leaves, too, stretch out as they grow, so Greek derived its word petalos "leaf" from this same root, minus the Fickle N, an N that comes and goes mysteriously in Indo-European words. We, of course, borrowed the Greek word as English petal. In Old Germanic the same original root emerged as fathmaz "an arm-spread", a word that came to English as fathom, now a standard nautical measure of length equal to about six feet.